Cuba, a reliable tourist destination in the Caribbean, supports its offers on the country’s natural resources, patrimonial values, culture and centuries of history.
Cuban eastern area is best known by its mountains and places where the first villages were founded. It is also a region filled with the spirituality of the people.
By 1540, the search for gold in the current province of Santiago de Cuba led to the fortuitous discovery of a copper deposit that in the present day is regarded as one of the oldest in the American continent.
Nevertheless, the presence of the mineral -that originated the settlement of the same name- was not enough to make this place worldwide known; this was achieved thanks to the Patron Saint of Cuba.
The Virgen de la Caridad (Our Lady of Charity), also adding El Cobre as a second name due to her sanctuary in this urban center, gained, almost immediately, a position of religious preference among Cubans since she also represents Ochún in the syncretic Afro-Cuban religion, as a symbol of fresh water and joy.
Several legends about the appearance of the virgin –almost 400 years ago– contribute to the attraction the virgin holds among believers, dwellers and visitors in general that come from different places in the world thanks to the increasing tourism in the archipelago.
One of the versions is linked to a cacique (leader of the indigenous communities) who fought combats accompanied by the deity.
But the most known version says that she was found at sea by three young men (two indigenous and a black slave) in the middle of a storm floating on a piece of wood where her name, Virgen de la Caridad, could be read.
The virgin was placed in different locations in the course of the years, from a shrine, a hospital chapel, a parish church and the current sanctuary that was built in 1927.
Life in the town is closely related to the worship of the Patroness Saint of Cuba, crowned in 1998 by His Holiness the Pope John Paul II, within the characteristic environment of a pilgrimage place.
Prayers and whispers, that hardly disturb the sacred silence of the place, accompany the thousands of visitors that arrive to make a request to the virgin or to pay a promise; or just out of curiosity.
The sanctuary, with a sober architecture, has a central nave surrounded by beautiful allegorical stained-glass windows complemented by a massive carved silver altar and valuable decorative objects.
Numerous offerings remain as silent witnesses in the Chapel of Miracles, in a collection that includes toys, jewels, letters, photos, awards and even medals from the most various origins.
The very image of the Holy Virgin, placed in her chapel, is surrounded by flowers and essences, with Baby Jesus on her left arm and a cross on the right, patiently waiting for the faithful who come to pay tribute and then expect from her an answer to their requests.